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Entitled Gamers, Corrupt Press, and Greedy Publishers

Entitled Gamers, Corrupt Press, and Greedy Publishers

Thu 21 Mar 2013 1:44pm GMT / 9:44am EDT / 6:44am PDT
Media

Something's broken in the way we deal with each other, but there are understandable reasons why

The Game Developers Conference kicks off next week, and lately when I haven't been busy planning coverage for the 2013 show, I've often found myself thinking back to GDC 2012. Specifically, I've been reconsidering a Chris Hecker mini-rant titled "The Dysfunctional Three-Way" in reference to gamers, developers, and the press. But where Hecker focused on a symptom of the dysfunction--an "appetite for sameness" in content the industry creates, covers, and consumes--I've been pondering the root cause. The problem between players, developers, and the press is partly that they just don't respect one another, and partly that they have justifiable reasons not to.

You might have noticed things in the world of core gaming have changed as this generation has dragged on. They're a little more tense, a little more antagonistic than in the past. The relationships between the people who make the games, the people who play the games, and the people who write about the games are increasingly strained, and the general attitude each group has toward the others creates a caustic, almost toxic atmosphere. This is an industry traditionally defined by its single-minded pursuit of fun, but these days it seems content to sit back and wallow in acrimony.

3

SimCity: Because the suckers already bought it, so **** 'em.

Gamers are mad because they're treated with naked contempt by the people who count them as customers. They're angry when their media outlets serve the interests of their advertisers instead of the interests of their readers. Or when the long-standing practice of buying and selling used games is suddenly tantamount to thievery just because technology has given content creators a way to throttle it. And who wouldn't be upset after paying $60 for a brand new game only to find out it isn't actually playable because the publisher imposed a needless DRM scheme even though they were woefully, incompetently unprepared to fulfill their obligation of providing servers for it? Should we even begin to get into increasingly exploitive business models that are driven by nothing but a remorseless push to separate gamers from their money?

"When even the best work brings with it a measure of abuse, it becomes difficult to filter out the unreasonable complaints from the ones that actually have a really good point."

That said, players don't have a monopoly on righteous indignation; press, developers, and publishers have a few reasons for resenting their audiences right back. The gaming public is a bottomless well of wanting, and whatever they are given, a not insignificant number of them will be vocally unhappy. They are upset that not enough was changed for the sequel. They are upset that too much was changed. All post-release content should be free. It's okay to vote with your wallet by pirating a game, because the company who made it is evil and what else are you expected to do? Not play it? This review score was too high; they must have been bought off. That review score was too low; I bet the incompetent and/or lazy reviewer didn't even beat the game on Master Ninja difficulty. "These websites have no standards and post sensationalist click-baiting tripe," they yell before clicking on the headline screaming "BREAKING: Miyamoto BLASTS rumored Xbox 720 specs!"

When people squat on absolutely everything, when even the best work brings with it a measure of abuse, it becomes difficult to filter out the unreasonable complaints from the ones that actually have a really good point. That becomes even harder when the wonder of Internet anonymity empowers them to abandon all pretense of civility, and so much of the gaming world seems primed to give voice to the nastiest aspects of their personalities. Remember the unconscionable bullying BioWare's Jennifer Hepler faced when she dared to suggest story-driven games could let players skip through combat sequence? How about when high-level Street Fighter x Tekken player Aris Bakhtanians defended sexual harassment in the fighting game community as "part of the culture" (and had more than a handful of people coming to his defense)?

4

Gaming: Where sexual harassment can be defended as 'part of the culture.'

The game makers and the press haven't had a great relationship of late, either. Some of the problems are the same as ever, but both the gaming industry and the press that covers it are going through some pretty lean times, and the pervasive sense that there's a hair's breadth between treading water and sinking like a stone is only heightening the tension. When coverage drifts away from what the publisher considers "on message," access can disappear. People lie about what problems will be fixed for launch, or whether so-and-so is doing interviews at an upcoming event. They complain when comment is not sought, but routinely ignore requests or stall for days when it is. Of course, those requests might be made a minute before the story goes live anyway, not exactly providing anyone with a fair opportunity to respond. And there's no shortage of writers willing to view every action in the worst possible light, to make out-of-context remarks into headlines or run with scintillating scuttlebutt, no matter how flimsy or far removed from reality it actually is.

"We have three groups of people, each of which has entirely legitimate reasons to show distrust and disdain toward the other two."

The sum of all this is that we have three groups of people, each of which has entirely legitimate reasons to show distrust and disdain toward the other two. And the state of the industry at this particular point in time is only making the situation worse.

The Internet has matured to the point where everybody has a voice, and the barriers separating the voice of the well-informed from the probably insane have never been lower. The media and the industry have no choice but to filter out a certain amount of the criticism as online background noise. And when we can point to hard numbers like "unique visitors" or "average revenue per user" as evidence that people actually like what we're doing, it's no wonder that the actual, legitimate complaints about our behavior fall on deaf ears. If we're running businesses, the complaints have to be ignored, at a point.

Meanwhile, the players are losing control of their hobby in new and frightening ways. "Games as a service" means no more "games as a tangible product," which means no more owning games as a finished thing that they can slot into a collection and preserve for all time. Now games are only as good as the servers they run on (the less said about that, the better), and the idea of a complete, cohesive gaming experience seems to be losing ground to the notion of a virtual treadmill which requires constant investment--or at least constant engagement--to maintain. Games are becoming less a hobby than a second job.

2

People were skeptical of the gaming press well before Gerstmann-gate. That incident did not improve the situation, to put it mildly.

And the press is caught in the middle. As has been the case for centuries, focusing on that which will be read is more lucrative than focusing on that which will best serve or inform readers. But the margins for error are slimmer than ever before. Just ask anyone who has worked for and been laid off by Ziff Davis before (and let's jokingly assume that's a majority of the game journo population at this point). This is an insecure profession, and today's Internet darling could be today's unemployed writer, never mind tomorrow. The pressure to make sure that every story gets hits, that every feature goes viral, has never been higher. If it reflects poorly on something with a well-established fanbase that will protest in abundance, it leads.

"As has been the case for centuries, focusing on that which will be read is more lucrative than focusing on that which will best serve or inform readers. But the margins for error are slimmer than ever before."

There are exceptions to every one of these rules. Obviously, there are plenty of reasonable gamers who ask for entirely achievable things that the press and game makers should provide as a matter of principle, or at least policy. And there are a number of developers and publishers who do treat their fans with respect, who provide a fair exchange of content for currency, and take user feedback to heart. And hopefully everyone involved has a handful of favorites on the journalism side, people they trust to give them an honest opinion or an even-handed report instead of pandering to the interests of others. But these are still exceptions because we treat praise as a finite resource, doling it out in miserly fashion to a single person here or a rare company there. On the other hand, we have scorn in abundance, and we direct it at even deserving targets with all the careful precision of a carpet bombing. Whoever gets caught up in the collateral damage probably deserved it anyway, right?

For each of these groups, the default state toward the others is almost necessarily distrust. We cannot extend each other the basic respect we should, simply because the negative consequences of doing so in those cases when we shouldn't are too high, and those cases are too common.

Because getting back to Hecker's GDC speech, the traditional gaming industry as it currently operates is dysfunctional. And if we're going to change that, we have two options. The first is to wait until the industry's financial fortunes improve, alleviating the pressures on the press and the game makers and (hopefully) giving people the luxury of breathing room. (Given the number of AAA-naysayers, let's assume this improvement is not imminent.) The other option is to empathize with each other, to assume people are deserving of respect, to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I can't say which party should extend that courtesy first, and I can't fault those who wait for someone else to make the first move, but it must happen at some point if we want to fix the problem.

36 Comments

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 410 0.6
Excellent article. Nothing really to add except that I think the people who give good criticism (on all sides) already empthise and respect those they're criticising... Unfortunately, the people who don't respect or empathise are unlikely to be or become respectful or empathetic to the "opposition".

Posted:A year ago

#1

Paul Cosgrove
Web Developer

2 0 0.0
I know it seems like passing the buck, to an extent, to say that publishers and press outlets need to make the first move, but at least they're (semi-)organised, and there can be sites and publishers who can made an editorial or policy decision to stop dealing with their customers and each other in destructive ways.

But if anybody has a way to herd the gaming public into holding a single mindset for more than fifteen seconds, then it's probably not a positive reaction they're getting.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

1,992 898 0.5
Popular Comment
The problem is, for some INSANE reason, too many people seem to WANT the dysfunction to continue so they can have their opinions (no matter how wrong-headed and stupid) matter. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had over the years with gamers who KNOW they're wrong about something, but defend that right to be ignorant (even when knowing FACTS will help them be less biased, annoying and perhaps even more respectful to developers).

Publishers have a harder road to take because they get blamed when something goes wrong and they take the attitude that it's all on the consumer for spending money on a broken product that might or might not get fixed. That's infuriating on a few levels, as if this were food or medicine we were involved in and people were getting ill or dropping like flies because of a lousy product, you'd see stuff change faster for the better.

As for the gaming press? Yeah, stuff definitely needs to change there starting with a line drawn between those shilling for hits by posting rumors and half (or not at all) researched opinion pieces disguised as facts and those folks who can do constructive criticism that helps developers make better game without coming off as overly snarky jerks who only write in two styles: gushing and slashing.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Phil Elliott
Project Leader, Collective; Head of Community (Live Team)

157 25 0.2
Interesting read.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,370 1,017 0.7
Good article.

I would be tempted to say that a good (and interesting) way for the consumer to empathise with developers/publishers is more transparency, through development diaries and Making Of extras. It's hard to relate to a faceless corporation, so when their final product is a train wreck (Sim City or Aliens: Colonial Marines), the consumer finds themselves feeling like they've been lied to. Even the most level-headed, constructive-criticism-filled Joe in the street is going to be angry about that. Releasing a Making Of, though... Yes, the Joe in the street is still going to be angry. Yes, it's going to sting an awful amount, but the possibilities for generating and reaffirming trust are enormous. It's a huge "This is how we had the best of intentions and cocked up".

And, if the game ends up being awesome, then it's just a nice little extra that the publisher can stick into a Deluxe Edition to sell even more copies. It's Win-Win. If the publisher/developer is willing to expose themselves to it.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st March 2013 3:57pm

Posted:A year ago

#5

Sam Brown
Programmer

237 163 0.7
@Morville:
Releasing a Making Of, though... Yes, the Joe in the street is still going to be angry. Yes, it's going to sting an awful amount, but the possibilities for generating trust are enormous. It's a huge "This is how we had the best of intentions and cocked up".
Possibly. On the other hand I'm pretty certain the ME3 one just made matters worse - it made everyone think they had proof they'd been screwed over as regards the ending and DLC.

Posted:A year ago

#6

James Benn
Studying Computer Science

12 15 1.3
Popular Comment
This article sums up many of the reasons why as a long-time gamer I look toward the next gen with trepidation instead of excitement. The development I'm most worried about is the artificial dependency publishers and console vendors are insisting on creating in requiring ostensibly single-player games to connect to online servers before/during gameplay. It's not in their commercial interest to continue to support/allow old games to be played when what they really want to us to do is 'rent access' to their latest products.

I have a decent collection of games that I'm slowly working through as time permits. If next gen gaming / 'games as a service' means that I'm no longer able to add to that collection with the certainty of being able to play or revisit a favorite game several years after having purchased it, then I really can't see myself continuing with this hobby.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Benn on 21st March 2013 4:08pm

Posted:A year ago

#7

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,370 1,017 0.7
@ Sam

Heh. True. I was thinking of that when I was typing. :D

Yes, it's true, it could backfire, but only if the publisher is shockingly careless. As far as I remember, the ME3 piece was mostly meant to be a little promotional "Isn't this cool?" thing, rather than a proper Behind-The -Scenes piece. Though this does raise the point of editorial independence and objectivity within the final product.

Posted:A year ago

#8

James Verity

132 25 0.2
" Now games are only as good as the servers they run on (the less said about that, the better)"...

either you think the consumer is dumb and hasn't noticed this fact yet, or you have something more to hide from the customer... which is it or is it both?

whichever it is I think most gamers have realised they are being ripped off by the current Software Developers that are currently still in business... while those of you that are still in business, I suggest you either get out quick while you still have some cash or change your ways... push comes to shove the customer will eventually break you if you don't change what your doing...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Verity on 21st March 2013 4:11pm

Posted:A year ago

#9

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,202 816 0.7
@Brendan Sinclair - Great article man. It hit all the right notes and I feel the same way towards alot of what you wrote... but this part hit the nail...

"Meanwhile, the players are losing control of their hobby in new and frightening ways. "Games as a service" means no more "games as a tangible product," which means no more owning games as a finished thing that they can slot into a collection and preserve for all time. Now games are only as good as the servers they run on (the less said about that, the better), and the idea of a complete, cohesive gaming experience seems to be losing ground to the notion of a virtual treadmill which requires constant investment--or at least constant engagement--to maintain. Games are becoming less a hobby than a second job."

I complain about this so much. Its like you pay 60$ for a game and then they penny the shit outta you in different ways and then the game only works as long as the servers are up. I own both white knight chronicles 1 and 2. guess what? Servers are going down soon, so i guess all those online features will remain useless. And I cant play SSX multiplayer locally, guess when the servers go down I cant play with others. I would also like games to feature multiplayer options that you can play with people in the same room, offline on the same console, as with split screen multiplayer. Games like castle crashers, Little big planet are cool cause of that.

On another note. I think all the issues surrounding Mass effect 3 made for a better game. the developers really went a long way to redeem themselves for the ending and day one DLC. They not only released alot of free DLC for multiplayer, but they also made the extended cut and gave it away for free. They also made the omega DLC and the final one the citidel DLC really felt like fan service. It didnt add or take away from the story. It had lots of humor, it felt like starship troopers, it wasnt really seriouse, but thats good that movie is a classic and to compare it to that was a big deal. I really felt Bioware heard the gamers, that they were listening and they took the criticism in a manner that made for a better game. Gamers can be hard to please and but they are not always wrong. I really did feel the ending to ME3 could have been better. i was actually very angry about how it ended. And I bet Bioware felt the same, I bet when they heard the critisism, they told themselves "you know, they are right". And the ending wasnt really changed, it was just better. The artistic vision of the developer was there, its not like they changed it into the indoctrination theory ending gamers were assuming. But they fleshed it out enough so gamers could have closure.

I can also see all the rage about always online DRM, I mean you spend 60$ dollars on a game that isnt even yours thats only as good as the time the servers work, that you cant take to your friends house and play, that you can only play on one console in a certain place all the time. So i cant blame people for feeling they are better off pirating it or not buying it. This is why I did not buy Diablo 3. However if the PS3/PS4 version is offline, I will happily buy it. I dont mind going online for multiplayer. However I want the choice being able to be offline in single player.

This article was very well writen, and hit the nail on most almost everything it said.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 21st March 2013 5:25pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Kevin Danaher
Associate Producer

46 62 1.3
I've had these discussions with colleagues of mine over and over and I have to agree that games as a service is one of the primary things causing antagonism. My only guess is that the bigwigs in the large publishers are hoping that the current core audience (those of us who've been playing games since the dawn of home gaming) will drop off to be replaced by a younger generation who don't care that they don't really own anything they buy. Perhaps the same people who already spend large amounts (rather than a couple of dollars) on freemium mobile games.

My thoughts were that at some point there will be court cases held. The EULA's the industry has been hiding behind will be assessed and forced to maintain a certain standard. Some big event will likely trigger this, an MMO or mobile app with a large number of user's shutting down for example. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing either, there needs to be some oversight. Publishers need to know what they must guarantee and gamers need to know what protection they'll have from licensing a product only to lose their access to it.

Posted:A year ago

#11
Popular Comment
I liked the article, but to blame the consumer is ridiculous. Consumers are allowed to be fickle and hard to please. Hell create an "I Love chocolate ice cream forum", and you'll have people going on there telling you chocolate sucks and vanilla rules. That is part of being a consumer, so to blame the consumer for being a consumer is ridiculous for it is this exact consumer fickleness that allow for all types of genres to exist. Fickle consumers allow for a market place to exist, if developers and publishers cant deal with that fact, then they have no place being in the business world.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 21st March 2013 6:26pm

Posted:A year ago

#12

Matt Ernst
Studying Culinary Arts

24 20 0.8
Todd took the words out of my mouth. The costumer is always right. If you show great customer service, they will come back and be regulars. A few companies in this industry need to work on their Customer Service Skills.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Kevin L. Clark
Founder, Editor-In-Chief

28 5 0.2
Really great article, Brendan! The distrust is real and palpable. I want to extend an olive branch in hopes that us in the journos profession can better communicate with one another.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

1,992 898 0.5
@Todd & Matt: Truuuue... but from my years working in game retail, there's HUGE difference in being "right" when you want a particular game (any clerk that tries to dissuade someone from making a purchase that customer wants to make - no matter how lousy the game is - shouldn't have a job) and not knowing a damn thing about a game, coming into a shop and saying "I hear this game is shit" or "My friend says this game is shit" and hoping everyone agrees with that under informed opinion just because it's said loudly enough and meant to be a statement of "fact".

I used to challenge people like that once in a while to actually PLAY some of those games they came in bad-mouthing and wouldn't you know it? Most of them came back to either thank me or would just come back with friends I could recommend stuff to. The others? Well, they just didn't come back, but they were usually those hang-outs that never bought anything anyway and just liked to come in to waste time and start debates about stuff they only heard about.

I guess that's the customer service part, but I can't speak for the industry and its current "sell the business model as the product" or whatever is going on that seems to be pissing more actual consumers off these days in what I see as growing numbers...

Posted:A year ago

#15

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

272 761 2.8
Popular Comment
Ps3 suxxorzz!

Posted:A year ago

#16

Emily Knox
Associate Designer

44 86 2.0
This is a thoughtful piece. Relations between all areas appear more hostile and dramatic to me now (I'm comparing this to being a consumer, say, 10 years ago), but is it fair to wonder, have many of these sorts of grievances (though not specifically the always online content on the developers end, and perhaps not the balance of most lucrative/informed work by writers), in fact, always existed since we had video games, consumers, and games press? Perhaps the dialogue between all three, and the ensuing reaction regardless of how informed, is simply more visible these days?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Emily Knox on 22nd March 2013 9:50am

Posted:A year ago

#17

Chris Lewin
Software Engineer

19 67 3.5
This is a really insightful article. I feel like the current running through it all and only touched on at the end is money. So much of the friction between these three parties would be alleviated if we had another period of sustained growth.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,370 1,017 0.7
@ Chris
So much of the friction between these three parties would be alleviated if we had another period of sustained growth.
I honestly don't see what you're trying to say here. Are you implying that something like the massive disparity between the Aliens: Colonial Marines trailer and finished product wouldn't upset the consumer so much if the industry was doing better? Would the awful state of Sim City be viewed by journalists differently if "we had another period of sustained growth"?

Speaking generally, I think the friction we have now between all three parties is necessary for the industry to mature. The customer is not always right, but the customer deserves a) the truth, b) a working product on release day, and c) to be respected. The turnover of the games industry is vast - even when it's in a downward cycle - yet very few in the industry hit even two out of three of those points. The industry is still young, but the time we live in now is one where the customer not only expects certain things, but is legally bound to have certain things. I do believe it's high-time that both publishers and journalists realised that, if they want respect, they have to earn it.

My post above - regarding Making Of/Dev Diaries - is a compromise, I think. This industry is not going to suddenly leap from releasing broken games that have been reviewed in a controlled environment to full-on openness; it has to be done in stages.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st March 2013 11:10pm

Posted:A year ago

#19

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

96 69 0.7
I don't think I can comment on this article without somehow offending someone who works in QA.

Todd made an excellent point that clearly everyone could do with re-reading though.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

764 994 1.3
I agree with the article. It use to be that fanboys were the biggest disruption and impasse to achieving an overall civil environment in the gaming community. But now it seems like it's everything and everybody. Angry gamers ranting on youtube and message boards, angry publishers deciding that they know whats best for consumers with their DRM and online passes, and angry journalist deciding to write misleading info just for the sake of hits. Can't we all just get along?

Posted:A year ago

#21

Jeremie Sinic

43 18 0.4
This article is interesting because of the questions it asks about the compatibility between business viability and business ethics.
A lot of anger among traditional gamers is caused by greedy implementation of freemium, but it seems to be the most successful model at least on mobile platforms.
On the development side, I hear a lot of "It's okay because it sells" and it's hard to fight against that stance with anything else than "But it's not right!".
It seems to me that as video games reach new customers through new platforms like smartphone and tablets, the less harcore of those new players are tempted by what seems to be risk-free alternative.
The console developers witness that and say (EA first) "That's the way, let's go all-in on free-to-play".
Yet, the people who buy new consoles on day one are not especially (imho) F2P fanciers.
The costumer is always right.
Matt Ernst, I don't know if that was on purpose, but with your profile picture it made for a good joke.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Jeff Spock
Writer/Narrative Designer

6 2 0.3
Two industry initiatives that counter this:
gog.com
Games2Gether
Not everyone is willing to accept this dystopia as immutable.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Mike Becker
Translation Specialist

3 7 2.3
Popular Comment
Well, I can tell you exactly why gamers think of publishers as greedy egomaniacs:
Look at CD Projekt. It's a tiny Polish team. No huge EA-like budgets. They made The Witcher 2 for the 360, including many improvements to the first game - and all of it was for free. No preorder DLC, no day 1 DLC, no online pass, nothing. Even more, they gave PC gamers all those updates, too - again, for free.
I have yet to see gamers complain about this practice.

On the other hand, we have EA, Capcom etc. They tell us they have to include day 1 DLC, online passes etc. so they can survive. Well, guess who's lying there.

I don't even want to talk about ridiculous stunts like always online, banning second hand games (which would be illegal anywhere else but in the software business, and it's about time people start suing for their rights), micro-transaction in single player titles, big chunks ripped out of the game (Assassins Creed II still is the shameless champion here) and the next idea sure to follow.

Gamers are sick of it. Sadly, some vent their anger in rather stupid and pointless ways, and some abuse directed at individuals is always disgusting. We don't need to discuss those complaints. But it is obvious we are getting milked. 5 years ago, 40 pounds meant a complete experience. Today, it means the base product to be enhanced by shelling out 20-50 more pounds for DLC, not counting other stuff such as preorder DLC ... Guess what, people will not like it.
And the gaming industry in a bad state? Well, tough look, we're all struggling.

The press ... well, look at Mass Effect 3 and the ending. We can all agree it was absolutely terrible. But I've yet to read a review where the tester complains about it. How is this possible?
And then, there are many magazines which never ever question certain industry practices. They do nothing but advertise games, disguised as journalism. Yes, we know you have to make money but please don't insult our intelligence by claiming you are independent journalists!

What can we all do?
Gamers have to grow up and learn how to criticise in a civilised manner.
The press has to prove it really fulfils its journalistic objectives.
And publishers ... well, they have the most work to do. Most of them. If you want to know how to do it right, just look at many small and indie companies: They listen to their audiences, they intend to establish a long-term connection based on trust and mutual enjoyment. Sure, they want to make money, too. But I'd rather give my money to a publisher who treats me with respect than to some greedy corporation which only is in there to satisfy shareholders.

Posted:A year ago

#24

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
What can we all do?
Gamers have to grow up and learn how to criticise in a civilised manner.
The press has to prove it really fulfils its journalistic objectives.
And publishers ... well, they have the most work to do. Most of them. If you want to know how to do it right, just look at many small and indie companies: They listen to their audiences, they intend to establish a long-term connection based on trust and mutual enjoyment. Sure, they want to make money, too. But I'd rather give my money to a publisher who treats me with respect than to some greedy corporation which only is in there to satisfy shareholders.
Many of us, generations DOS, 8bits, 16bits, 32 bits and so on who still are gamers take a similar path. Now all gamers have not grown up, there are also new generation who don't know how it was before and are "raised" with the new standards we are currently discussing.

Now of course, for us who were used to "buy our code" rather than "rent services", it is a drastic change and we are - at least some of us - looking for alternatives. EA, like most actual giant studios/publishers started in some car garage founded by a couple of people passionate about what they where doing, then they grew to what they are now. It is very likely that this or that indie studio who does a particular hit title will mute to something similar as well if they get successful money-wise (or get absorbed by giant entities).

So we have to adapt too if we don't find what we looking for anymore in a particular "place", while it is very unlikely this will prevent the "place" to not receive any guests anymore since others will surely find sufficient satisfaction for themselves and according to their own standards there.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 22nd March 2013 10:49am

Posted:A year ago

#25

Mary Hilton
Community Manager

35 17 0.5
This paragraph sums up most of what is wrong with the gaming industry as viewed by the gamers/customers of these products:
Gamers are mad because they're treated with naked contempt by the people who count them as customers. They're angry when their media outlets serve the interests of their advertisers instead of the interests of their readers. Or when the long-standing practice of buying and selling used games is suddenly tantamount to thievery just because technology has given content creators a way to throttle it. And who wouldn't be upset after paying $60 for a brand new game only to find out it isn't actually playable because the publisher imposed a needless DRM scheme even though they were woefully, incompetently unprepared to fulfill their obligation of providing servers for it? Should we even begin to get into increasingly exploitative business models that are driven by nothing but a remorseless push to separate gamers from their money?
In the end, the fact is that if it were not for gamers, these other outlets-publishers, developers, magazines and critics would not exist at all. Gamers are the driving force for all of them. Our money, our time and our passion is what the entire industry is supposed to be about. If the product does not work, does not execute properly or fails to meet OUR expectations, it is a waste of time for all of us.
Until the entire game industry starts truly caring about the end user (ie, gamers), there will be no happiness in the gaming world-because the customer is the one paying for a product that does not appeal to them, does not work or has incredible restrictions on the gameplay.
Whiny and demanding? If you threw $50-$100 away on a product that does not work, wouldn't you be just a tad ticked off and calling the store/manufacturer for a refund or replacement? Damned right you would, and with good cause-but you wouldn't be called "whiny", "entitled' or ''immature" for doing so. You'd be a savvy consumer/customer who expects quality for your money.
The product is only as good as the manufacturer makes it. You don't make a good product, it will not sell, period. That goes for cars, computers, anything and everything, including games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mary Hilton on 22nd March 2013 11:51am

Posted:A year ago

#26

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

631 223 0.4
Until the entire game industry starts truly caring about the end user (ie, gamers), there will be no happiness in the gaming world-because the customer is the one paying for a product that does not appeal to them, does not work or has incredible restrictions on the gameplay.
Could not agree more. Maybe some of the Kickstarter projects represent some hope..

Posted:A year ago

#27

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
Until the entire game industry starts truly caring about the end user (ie, gamers), there will be no happiness in the gaming world-because the customer is the one paying for a product that does not appeal to them, does not work or has incredible restrictions on the gameplay.
Why should the entire game industry starts to truly care about the end user ? Is happiness the final goal for all of us, professionals in the industry and our customers, the gamers ? Is that truly why we are doing business ? To a certain extent this is a depiction of some ideal world, with the same risk as any utopia to become a dystopia.

What makes nature as we observe and somehow know it is diversity. What makes our lives spiritually interesting is choice, or the apparent freedom of choice (without going into too much metaphysical depths). To have choice, or the illusion of choice, we need distinction. To have distinction we need diversity. This is true in so many ways that it has to be like that too in the video game industry.

I personally need to have bad experiences, I need to do mistakes in my choices and purchases of video games as much as I need to be disappointed sometimes, because only then I can compare and conclude that or this is better than this or that, therefore only then I can be truly happy because I first learnt the meaning of an unsatisfying experience.

The industry should not dictate this as a whole, the industry as a whole benefits from diversity. A balance will be found, while perfect "equilibrium" should not be sought either as shown in nature (or the rules of the universe) a balance is never achieved mathematically at a precise point in time, it is achieve chaotically over time with ups and downs and constant variation. Nor should we even pretend that this DRM, this DLC or this MT policy is bad for the user (we would basically be patronizing the end-user (gamer), telling them how to think, how to be happy and stripping them of their own choices - even liberty to make mistakes by themselves - if we were to tell them).

While it is clear that yes, such things as greedy publishers, corrupt press and entitled gamers do exist (at least we observe it), there are as much necessary as whatever could be presented as the solution to that, whenever this is an issue (it only becomes an issue as a matter of proportion, rather than the phenomenon being an issue in itself and by itself as such). Fact is we need greedy publishers, we need corrupt medias and whatever "entitled" gamers means (since sometimes customer feel entitled to way too much as well) to know where the line is, and then again it a matter of choice if you wanna cross it or not (regardless of you being a publisher, a media or a gamer). We can't praise freedom and not embrace its lacks as well - abuses are part of freedom and more they are necessary for it to be called such.

At the end of the day, the counters (call them indie, call them kickstarters, call them early access, etc.) are already currently @work to balance the phenomenon on the devs/publisher side, and we will see what happens with the press (who is far to be totally compliant to the major companies) and the gamers (who will make their call, their choice from the increasing variety of offers).

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 22nd March 2013 1:32pm

Posted:A year ago

#28

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,370 1,017 0.7
@Eric
Why should the entire game industry starts to truly care about the end user ?
The long-term survival of any business depends on the income that the end user grants. In retail customer service you're told to always make the customer happy, within the company's policy. Why? Repeat business. The vast majority of retail customers find a brand or store they like, and buy that brand/shop in that store until they have a negative experience. At that point, how the company reacts affects if the customer continues the brand relationship or leaves.

Case in point: Sim City. EA released a bad product with a lack of servers. Customers had a negative experience. Instead of accepting this and apologising and rectifying the problem, they ineptly tried to pass the buck. End result? People who will not buy EA games or Sim City franchise material in the future, leading to worse financials for EA and creating a negative perception of the games industry. It doesn't matter how many people stick to their guns about not buying EA: a single lost sale because of the Sim City fiasco is still a lost sale. And that negative perception can affect the entire industry, through bad press and word of mouth.

Posted:A year ago

#29

Pablo Santos
Developer

22 18 0.8
@Morville: If we consider all this an unpleasant but natural consequence of the evolution of this industry, that episode may be one of the many catalysts for the depuration process the industry - according to the article - seems to need.

Although I do not like the current state of things, I can only hope it gets better with time. =/

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pablo Santos on 22nd March 2013 3:03pm

Posted:A year ago

#30

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
@Morville
In which case "the downfall" of EA (ah ah) will perhaps benefit other publishers (a problem would be if SimCity experience led to those gamers to change hobby, never coming back to video games again). At the end, video gamers may not choose EA, but it doesn't mean they will step out of the industry as a whole. "Whole" or "entire" were the key words I was mainly reacting upon (while I do not negate negative impact on the whole industry, I hardly believe this will be the case here).

EA, like any other studio, publisher cannot please everyone. No one can. I am pretty sure that many amongst gamers who bought SimCity from EA this year, many silent ones are still enjoying the experience in full, far away from our industry debates or even the SimCity Community debates. Additionally, what about the long term and future purchases ? Maybe SimCity had a bad start but the fact is even if you start last you can still win the race or at least finish it honorably. It is a bit early in my opinion to call SimCity a fiasco, but yes its launch was most probably a fail (in terms of services and communication from what I read).

A single lost sale is not always lost forever and lost customer's loyalty can be regained (of course it seems to be much less energy to retain the customer from the start at least in theory, practical experience sometimes shows weird and paradoxical examples).

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 22nd March 2013 4:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#31

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,370 1,017 0.7
@ Eric
A single lost sale is not always lost forever and lost customer's loyalty can be regained
This is entirely true. But then, if publishers are so keen to get a sale that they're looking for ways to regain a customer's loyalty, doesn't that speak to the need to make the customer happy? If unhappy customer = lost sale, then surely happy customer = more sales?

I also acknowledge that it's an entire unknown how much impact negative user experiences have on their future sales. Maybe EA's lost sale is Ubisoft's gain, for example (it's no coincidence that Anno 2070 went on 66% discount on Steam recently). Or maybe the random 20-something woman who bought Sim City in the local Game is never going to buy a PC game again, let-alone a city-building sim. *shrugs*

I do think, though, that people within the industry need to look at how other industries act and react towards consumers, since I think that is what people measure by. For example, Amazon's customer experience is fantastic. Now, it's logical for an Amazon customer to say "If Amazon - massive corporation that it is - can priority-mail me a replacement Firefly Box Set 3 hours after I say it's arrived broken, why do Valve take 48 hours to email me about my Steam account being hacked?". That's not to say that Valve's customer service is bad, but that the customer is used to being treated well by W, and thus comes to expect it from X, Y, and Z.

One thing I would be interested in is related to this:
I personally need to have bad experiences, I need to do mistakes in my choices and purchases of video games as much as I need to be disappointed sometimes, because only then I can compare and conclude that or this is better than this or that, therefore only then I can be truly happy because I first learnt the meaning of an unsatisfying experience.
Do you apply this reasoning to other industries? Purchasing books? Going to the cinema? Buying fridge-freezers? I'm genuinely curious. :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 22nd March 2013 6:23pm

Posted:A year ago

#32
The industry can do little about anger arising from ignorance except try to educate; perhaps Eurogamer will update its informative 2011 article on where the money goes. I was talking with people only the other week who believe that publishers enjoy half the RRP from every new product sold at retail and that as the industry made X billion dollars last year every publisher must be rolling in dough.

As for righteous anger - a recent edition in a popular series seems apposite - I think a positive step would be for the industry to lobby for certainty in consumer rights in relation to digital products and in the meantime a 'code of conduct' pertaining to the same would be welcomed. I believe the industry is entitled to experiment but gamers should be entitled to a refund if the experiment or any product is defective.

Posted:A year ago

#33

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
Do you apply this reasoning to other industries? Purchasing books? Going to the cinema? Buying fridge-freezers? I'm genuinely curious. :)
@Morville
Well games, books or movies... you can only find out by purchasing access to them first. Fridge-freezers is a slighter heavier investment and beside technical data (which are facts or practical requirements/features - here freeze or refrigerate, store a volume in an organized way which is something you can check before purchase more or less thoroughly) the only feeling involved is about the color and design of the door. The "door" of a book is usually its back, for a movie it is its trailer and for a game its an array of information (trailers, pre-release reviews, alpha/beta test leaks, perhaps a demo etc.) which anyway does not give you a complete and final experience of the product itself.

Now the reasoning I've mentioned is of course not to be taken at face value, and one has to avoid has much as possible being disappointed or doing mistakes that will challenge his feelings in an unpleasant way. Acceptance of the potential mistakes before and after hand is though a necessary thing since disappointment (regardless of the fact it is a subjective concept in front of which individuals are not equal) is not avoidable in an absolute way (and we're talking about experiences where you have thrown money into the experience, of course playing a game at a friend's place that you did not paid for is out of the current discussion context).

So yes we, gamers, rely on the press to give us most objective and accurate reviews (which are generally full of opinions rather than objective facts... and when the media has received nice sponsoring contract in exchange of a compliant review then well, it's marketing). But at the end of the day, is there anyway to avoid that ? I mean in practice.
As for righteous anger - a recent edition in a popular series seems apposite - I think a positive step would be for the industry to lobby for certainty in consumer rights in relation to digital products and in the meantime a 'code of conduct' pertaining to the same would be welcomed. I believe the industry is entitled to experiment but gamers should be entitled to a refund if the experiment or any product is defective.
@Tristram
A bit like the Geneva Conventions on wars. :) Everyone agrees to them, but no one willing to actually "win" should respect them.

It is also difficult to define what "defective" is when we're talking about a product that involves so much "art" and technical parameters. I guess were not done with the topic.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 25th March 2013 2:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#34

Benjamin Crause
Supervisor Central Support

74 33 0.4
A very great article. One of the best I recently read here. I think there is more to it too like looking into cultural behaviour and why only some can manage a proper customer-publisher relationship while others are masters at destroying any kind of trust (EA and Blizzard come to my mind here).

A customer who buys a product or service is entitled to expect that it is fully working and operational and includes all advertised content and features. I think we can all agree on that?

So why do so many fail on this? Is it because we accept the shitstorm because we believe it does not affect our bottom line? They bought it already anyway right? Are we failing to realize the loudest people on the internet are often the minority? Why do we try to cater for all gamers even if we know it is impossible to satify everyone?

I am sick of developers talking about delivering services when they sell you the lates game but fail to ultimaltely deliver a proper service including content, funtions and customer service.

Sure the ball is on everyone. Demanding customers who cant be satisfied, press who is focusissing on "bad" news and publishers who are milking franchises and customers alike. The developers are also part of the problem because for too long they allowed publishers this kind of control destroying franchises, customer relations and the developers image.
The relation between customers and publisher/developer has being greatly damaged in the last few years. Only few companies understand how to build a long lasting relationship.
Typical useless Company PR is the next problem. Today the people can read through the lines which are neither direct or honest and just useless excuses in order to address the actual point.

And on the topic of lost sales and illegal copies: I firmly believe those are only lost opportunities to turn someone who had interest in your product into a customer.

Posted:A year ago

#35

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

261 161 0.6
EDIT : Comment deleted. Sorry.

Edited 13 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 26th March 2013 8:35pm

Posted:A year ago

#36

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